Ballard Spahr is an Am Law 100 law firm with 475 attorneys in 12 offices throughout the United States. The firm specializes in dozens of different practice areas but is particularly recognized for its work in estate planning, public finance, and real estate transactions.
Ballard's Family Wealth Management department is responsible for producing sophisticated wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents for high-net-worth individuals with complicated financial situations. With blunt copy-and-paste techniques, drafting such documents in the past was a laborious and time-consuming process. "It used to take at least a full day to create these documents," notes Kelli Kane, HotDocs Program Coordinator in Ballard's Philadelphia office. "It was also a high-risk process prone to a lot of error." Recognizing the need to increase efficiency, minimize errors and make the new process available across the firm, Ballard implemented a new system using HotDocs Server as the foundation.
After developing HotDocs templates and integrating the HotDocs Server application with Ballard's™ document management system, the new process quickly gained traction with the attorneys in the Philadelphia and New Jersey offices. The system has been a great success. "We can now produce a set of documents for a client in under 30 minutes," says Kane. Ballard also uses the system as a marketing tool to sell the firm's high-tech credentials and commitment to best practices.
Consequently, the resulting productivity boost in the Family Wealth Management division didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the firm. Ballard has since developed a HotDocs-based system to generate response letters for clients subject to accounting or government audits. HotDocs was integrated seamlessly on the front end with a client database in which users could select the appropriate client information, click on a link, and automatically generate a letter with the appropriate language and client data. "The system is used by the Finance department's Audit group and significantly cuts the amount of time and effort necessary to produce these letters for the firm's clients," states Kane.
Most recently, the real estate group in Ballard's Washington, D.C. office applied HotDocs in the development of a new application called BizLoan, which aids in the production of banking, loan, and other documents pertinent to real estate transactions. "Many of these transactions require up to 30 different documents. The time required to produce that many documents the old way really added up," explains Kane. Once the base system was up and running, HotDocs software engineers added functionality so users could quickly and easily modify the HotDocs templates at different points in the production process. This allowed for the creation of multiple versions of the same document, which eased the back-and-forth negotiation process between the parties involved. Moreover, "What used to take at least 6-7 hours to complete now takes under an hour," says Kane. "The time saving is huge."